Westpac is spending $240 million on an overhaul of its branch network in response to sweeping technological change, in a move that will cut the number of staff and floor space in affected branches.
With fewer customers carrying out transactions in person, the change will involve the gradual phasing out of well-known features from bank branches, such as security screens and piles of printed brochures.
Instead, the bank plans to encourage customers to conduct more of their everyday banking - such as depositing cash or cheques - through machines.
The change, which will initially be rolled out across new premises, is expected to affect about a third of 680 banks that carry the Westpac brand across the country over the next three years.
In suburban Brisbane, where Westpac unveiled the change on Monday, chief executive Gail Kelly said it was part of the bank’s strategy to better connect with local communities.
Under the change, new Westpac branches will no longer feature tellers working behind security screens.
Instead, each branch will include a section with "smart" automatic teller machines, open 24 hours a day. Smart ATMs are designed to allow people to carry out a broader range of transactions, such as depositing or changing cash or depositing cheques.
For people who would still rather talk to a staff member, terminals will be set up that allow people to conduct transactions in person, but they will be able to stand opposite their banker at a desk, rather than talking through a security screen.
The head of Westpac’s retail and business bank, Jason Yetton, said there would be fewer tellers in banks affected by the change, but there would also be more highly-skilled advisory staff.
"The advent of mobile banking, first through smart phones and now tablets, has completely altered the way our customers bank with us and as a result they want more advice from our staff about how to get the most out of their finances and how to plan for the future," Mr Yetton said.
Mr Yetton said the changes would not reduce the overall number of Westpac branches, but it would focus more on locating them in growth areas, such as regions benefiting from the mining boom.
While the move is being pitched as a way to provide better services to customers, it is also intended to save the bank money.
Mr Yetton said the new branches would require about 30 per cent less floor space, saving the bank on the costs of occupying a maintaining branches.
The bank says the changes will also improve security for customers and their staff, because cash will automatically be deposited directly into safes with a time-lock.
The reporter travelled to Brisbane courtesy of Westpac.